Comparing Canadian And American Political Cultures
Political culture can be defined as perspectives, standpoints and inclination that individuals possess about the political system. Political culture also includes moral judgements, behaviors, beliefs, values and attributes may be appropriate for the society we live in, and a reflection of the government that dominates a country and how they should function and operate (Dyke & Cochrane, 2014). Canada and United States of America are neighbors and may share some principles but not necessarily the same ideologies, however, there are differences in opinions and point of views. This paper will be exploring the question “is Canadian political culture losing its distinctiveness and becoming more American in character?”
The debate over Canada and America and who takes after whom can be heard when having conversation between citizens of said countries. The writer has engaged in conservation with American citizens who have said that Canada always mimics their country and that we are considered baby America. Canada has its own identity with a broad base of multiculturalism and each province in the country has identifiable features that make them unique. Therefore, to hypothesize that Canadians are becoming more Americanized is implausible. They may share similar views but there are many attributes that are distinguishable between the two. Canada and the United States are neighbor, there are traits that may be adopted and maybe misconstrued into thinking that Canada is becoming “Americanized”. (Baxter-Moore, Eagles, Aheer, Maxwell, Pilkey & Samra, 2016).
If we take into consideration the election process in Canada, the government is divided into levels, federal or national, provincial, territorial and municipal; and further subdivided into regional and local. The federal and provincial government are further divided in three branches, the legislative, executive and Judicial, which are collectively known as the organs of state (Dyke & Cochrane). The legislature is known to make and pass the laws in that region; the executive also known as the prime minister is capable of making and passing laws, but their actual job is to implement these laws, and the judicial system is focus on defending, protecting and safeguarding the laws (Dyke & Cochrane, 2014). The members of parliaments are elected by the people for all three governments. Meanwhile, the elections in the United States are govern by officials of federal, state and local levels. The president or head of the government and state, is elected during the federal level by the people of that state, through nationwide vote or electoral college (Krine & Reeves, 2014). The president of the United States is only allowed two terms in office during their lifetime as a president which amounts to eight years and can be served consecutively, while in Canada there are no limits to the length of time a prime minister can serve in office. In Canada, the longest serving prime minister was The Right Honorable Mackenzie King whose tenure in office was 21 years, 5 months (Dyck & Cochrane, 2014). The prime minister of Canada is the head of the government and supported by a congress that hold majority of the seats in the house of commons (Fowler, 2012; Kriner, & Reeves, 2014; Dyke & Cochrane, 2014). The Canadian parliament and the United States congress have similar structures and function, but the way the operate is different. In the United the congress is made up of house of representative and and the senate. In Canada the parliament Is divided into the house of common and the senate. The house of common is publically elected. However, members of the senate are appointed by the governor general (Moscardelli & McGhee, 2015).
The essential elements of the Canadian political culture are characterized by a substantial consensus on rule of law and a democratic system of government. Democracy means that the people are eligible of electing representatives from among themselves to protect their rights. The fundamentals of democracy include, popular sovereignty, this is where people have the final authority in all matters of government through elections; equality, holds the notion of one person is entitled to one vote; political freedoms, includes the ability to have freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and religion; finally, majority and minorities right. (Dyke & Cochrane, 2014). Canada has five regional and provincial cultures which are found in, Atlantic Canada consisting of Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia; Quebec; Ontario; the ‘Midwest’ which includes, Manitoba and Saskatchewan; and the ‘Far West’ which encompasses Alberta and Columbia. (Abu-Laban, 2008).
In contrast, the American political culture is a system of shared political traditions which incorporates core values, beliefs, and customs of which the population may not all agree with. However, the vast majority share the same ideals of liberty, equality, democracy, civic duty and individualism, just to name a few (Ciuk, 2017). The American political culture is based on liberty which simply means that their citizens have a right to be free as long as they do not infringe or harm another person’s right. Along with liberty there is equality, in which the citizen of the country has the same opportunities to achieve a particular goal; although equality doesn’t necessarily mean that the results will be equal for everyone (Ciuk, 2017).
It is safe to say that culture definitely influences politics, and Canada and The United States have different values and beliefs that directs how they function. Nevertheless, the Canadian and American system of governments are different. The Canadian Constitution of 1867 highlighted peace, order and good government, while the American declaration of independence talked about liberty, freedom and happiness (Dyke &Cochrane, 2014). Political parties in the United States is predominantly dominated by two political party system namely democratic and republicans. However, there are five main political parties in Canada, Liberal, Conservatives New Democratic Party (NDP), Green party and Bloc Quebecois.
There are many different Canadian values that can be used to differentiate those from the United states. Canadian political system can be referred to a collectivist society because it emphasizes a sense of community and valuing the goals of group, with a collective responsibility and norms and the United states believed in individualism that values freedom of worth of the individual over the security of the group and competitiveness (Kyriacou, 2016). An example of this collectivist method would be the idea of taxes. The tax fund social programs such as the universal health care and pension which is a benefit to everyone.
Another vital aspect that is used to differentiate these two countries would the the deference to authority. Deference to authority One popular comment that can be said about Canadians are that they are polite, kind and respectful. Canadians have greater respects for heads of authority such as police, judges, religious leaders, just to name a few. While on the other hand, Americans as a group do not possess those traits (Dyke & Cochrane, 2014).
Is Canada really losing its political culture to model those of the United States; the answer would be yes and no. Yes, the writer believes that Canada and the United States have different cultural beliefs in the way the government practice. Canada has a collectivist mindset, from a personal view, however; there are some individualist characteristics that can be seen in society. For example, the debate with the cutbacks of funding from the autistic population, who is in need.
Canadians and Americans share similarities in regards political views but to attribute these traits and conclude that Canada is becoming American is debatable. The examples above highlight the similarities and differences between the countries. Despite the shared cultures, these two countries remain as distinct societies with their differences in political cultures. Both counties have traits that each models.
- Abu-Laban, Y. (2008). In Search of Canadian Political Culture. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 40(3), 201. Retrieved from https://login.gbcprx01.georgebrown.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=p3h&AN=59342641&lang=en-ca&site=pov-can&scope=site
- Baxter-Moore, N., Eagles, M., Aheer, D., Maxwell, R., Pilkey, L.-A., & Samra, K. (2016). Explaining Canada–US Differences in Attitudes Toward Crime and Justice: An Empirical Test of S.M. Lipset’s Account. American Review of Canadian Studies, 46(4), 430–451. https://doi-org.gbcprx01.georgebrown.ca/10.1080/02722011.2016.1265567
- Ciuk, D. (2017). Democratic Values? A Racial Group-Based Analysis of Core Political Values, and Ideology. Political Behavior, 39(2), 479–501. https://doi-org.gbcprx01.georgebrown.ca/10.1007/s11109-016-9365-5
- Dyck, R., & Cochrane, C. (2014). Canadian Politics: Critical Approaches, (7th ed.), Toronto, Ontario: Nelson College Indigenous.
- Fowler, T. (2012). Coordinated Strategic Voting in the 2008 Federal Election. American Review of Canadian Studies, 42(1), 20–33. https://doi-org.gbcprx01.georgebrown.ca/10.1080/02722011.2012.649926
- Kriner, D., & Reeves, S, A. (2014). The Electoral College and Presidential Particularism. Boston University Law Review, 94(3), 741–766. Retrieved from https://login.gbcprx01.georgebrown.ca/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=96586640&site=ehost-live&scope=site
- Kyriacou, A. P. (2016). Individualism–collectivism, governance and economic development. European Journal of Political Economy, 42, 91–104. https://doi-org.gbcprx01.georgebrown.ca/10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2015.11.005
- Moscardelli, V. G., & McGhee, E. (2015). Reform in the Canadian Parliament and the US Congress: Institutional Choices and Member Power. American Review of Canadian Studies, 45(2), 226–245. https://doi-org.gbcprx01.georgebrown.ca/10.1080/02722011.2015.1038284